Wednesday, July 21

The "Terror In The Skies" Story

Last week, we pointed you to the article at Women's Wall Street about a terror scare one of their writers experienced on a flight from Detroit to LA. Patrick Smith at Salon puts in perspective today.
Now, in fairness to Jacobsen, I'll admit that in-flight jitters over the conspicuous presence of a group of young Arabs is neither unexpected nor, necessarily, irrational. She speaks of seven of the men standing in unison, a moment that, if unembellished, would have even the most culturally open-minded of us wide-eyed and grabbing our armrest. As everybody knows, it was not a gaggle of Canadian potato farmers who commandeered those jetliners on Sept. 11. See also the legacy of air crimes over the past several decades, from Pan Am 103 to the UTA bombing to the failed schemings of Ramzi Yousef, the culprits each time being young Arab males.

Air crews and passengers alike are thus prone to jumpiness should a certain template of race and behavior be filled. Jacobsen's folly is in not being able to step back from that jumpiness -- neither during the flight itself, at which point her worry and behavior are at least excusable, nor well after touching down safely. Speaking as a pilot, air travel columnist, and American, I find Jacobsen's 3,000-word ghost story of Arab boogeymen among the most overwrought and inflammatory tracts I've encountered in some time.